Thursday 18 January 2018

U2 triumph at home

Last night's Croke Park concert was a powerful homecoming for U2, writes Barry Egan

U2 on stage at Croke Park last night Picture: Steve Humphreys
U2 on stage at Croke Park last night Picture: Steve Humphreys
Barry Egan

Barry Egan

The truth about U2 is endless. As are the lies. Not that they listen to any of it. Still, in a dim corner of Bono's mind, he might allow himself a moment of doubt amid all that hubris...

His normally forward-looking band have looked back with a tour based on an album released 30 years ago. What might cast longer shadows in his mind is the fact that U2 rewrote and held back the release of their next album, Songs of Experience, and toured this one instead. To some it seemed like a misstep, like a collective failure of nerve, especially for a band whose raison d'être has always been about reinventing themselves - the polar opposite of nostalgia.

The staggering financial success of this Joshua Tree Tour adds to the theory that U2's fans are now more interested in U2's past work than the post-Trump songs they might play in the future.

For me, U2's strength is their restlessness. Somehow I can't imagine the band remaining content to just turn up and phone-in the golden oldies, however timeless and still relevant they are. Taking the stage last night at Croke Park, however, Bono didn't look remotely like a man in state of flux. In fact, he seemed more confident than ever, his old messianic swagger hard to miss.

At 8.40pm, Larry Mullen Junior wandered down the ramp to a small stage off Jones' Road, Drumcondra, where he sat down at the drum kit and struck up a familiar military beat: Sunday Bloody Sunday.

He was soon joined by the rest of the band. The Edge's elegiac effects-laden guitar cast a spell across Croker before Bono sang: "I can't believe the news today/Oh, I can't close my eyes/And make it go away/How long/How long must we sing this song?" How long? U2 played for two hours last night. And what a night.

"Thank you for letting us into your lives," Bono addressed crowd. The reaction was sheer joy, the hysteria unequivocal on the electrifying New Year's Day, the whole stadium seeming to bounce beautifully with Bullet The Blue Sky.

Bono wrung every last drop of self-searching and existential truth out of I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For. It was powerful stuff.

U2 played with such intensity and power that it seemed that Bono, The Edge, Larry and Adam were on a search for some climactic moment of cathartic and spiritual release that perhaps never comes, but it doesn't stop them (or us) trying to find it. Last night in Croke Park was a sort of homecoming for U2, a sort of triumph, full of emotions.

"Through the storm we reach the shore," Bono sang on With Or Without You, "You give it all but I want more." Singing along, 75,000 fans were captivated by the integrity evident in Bono's voice.

In Croker, Bono was a mystic who cast a spell into the night, and beyond.

As a fella who is casting a spell across the nation told me at the gig last night: "Hearing The Joshua Tree the second time around changes your feelings about the album. We are older. So are U2. But better," said Leo Varadkar. "This was the best gig I have been to in years. U2 are getting better as a band." So are Fine Gael.

Sunday Independent

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